David G. Barber
16 Ballou Road
Hopedale, MA 01747-1833
November 9, 2003
To the Editor
The Waterways Journal
319 N. 4th Street
St. Louis, MO 63102
A few weeks ago, I accepted your offer for a trial subscription to The Waterways Journal and I intend to continue.
In reading your publication, I note a lot of concern about future funding for waterway maintenance and improvement. In the current issue of BoatUS, in an article on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, there is a statement that in justifying waterway funding "Recreational vessel traffic and boater spending is not counted......Neither is the commercial fishing, tour boat operation, ferry traffic, charter fishing or cruise ship activity...." In other words, one of the nation's largest industries, tourism, is ignored in considering the justification for waterways. I believe the same is true for inland waterways.
That strikes me like trying to justify interstate highways while considering only trucks and ignoring passenger cars and buses. The road lobby is smarter than that. Why isn't the waterway industry?
The justification for waterways is calculated by the Corps of Engineers. But, the criteria is set by Congress. The current rules may have been appropriate at the start of the twentieth century when only the very rich owned pleasure craft. But when the Reagan administration tried to put a luxury tax on boats, all hell broke loose. They scaled the tax back to only the most expensive boats, but that ruined the upper end of the boat industry and the tax has recently been repealed.
The name of the game is always numbers. While some in the commercial waterways business may look down on private boaters, those boaters are more knowledgeable about the waterways than the rest of the public. Who sees more about a river, the boater on the river or a motorist crossing it on a high level bridge at 65 mph?
Throughout the 20th century, smaller branches have been pruned from the waterways system. The narrow canals in the early decades, the Muskingum River in the mid century, the upper Fox River, the upper Kentucky River more recently. Now even the Missouri and the Upper Mississippi are under assault and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is silting in.
Government doesn't want to be involved in tourism and recreation because it has been told not to. Instead of a growing industry as in such wealthy countries as Great Britain and Canada, we have waterway abandonment. Of the developed nations of the world, the Unites States is in last place on the redevelopment of waterways for recreational use. Only New York is moving forward. Unless all users and interested parties are involved, the downhill slide will continue at it will impact all users.
David G. Barber, President
American Canal Society